I’ve been wearing cowboy boots for over a decade, and what keeps me going is that cowboy boots are able to stretch pretty well to mold to the feet.
It sounds pretty simple since all footwear will stretch over time and use. But the more they stretch, the larger they fit your feet.
Nothing beats finishing a long day at work with more than 10 hours on your feet and several blisters running from the ball of your feet to your heels caused by ill-fitting footwear.
The way cowboy boots stretch is a different story. My grandfather used to say that if cowboy boots fit my feet snugly right out of the box, they would stay almost the same with more comfort.
From my experience, I can say that this is fairly true. Cowboy boots stretch, but they just stay all around your feet with some comfortable rooms.
However, not all cowboy boots stretch to the same extent. This depends on their materials, the designs, the way we wear them, and even the weather can affect the whole process.
If you want your cowboy boots to break in faster, this article can help you decide how stretchy you want your boots to be.
Will cowboy boots stretch naturally over time?
One sure thing is that cowboy boots will stretch over time. So, if you’ve accidentally bought a pair of tight cowboy boots online, don’t worry, they will quickly stretch and mold to your feet.
Cowboy boots can stretch, but won’t shrink! When you use cowboy boots, they will be exposed to moisture from the environment and your body, and become soft. So, when bearing the weight of your body, cowboy boots will quickly stretch over time.
Firstly, cowboy boots will stretch a lot until the leather in contact with your foot completely molds to your feet. It is no longer tight or stiff as the leather is expanded. We can also understand this as the process of breaking in your boots.
Later, cowboy boots will continue stretching slowly to a smaller extent. That also explains why the older cowboy boots get, the lower the fit, as the boots have stretched and become larger than your feet.
If cowboy boots are a bit tight, you can still be confident that they can stretch and fit your feet well. On the contrary, if cowboy boots are a bit loose, there is almost no way to make them shrink, (though you can try to stuff something inside the boots to make them fit tighter).
However, due to the nature of leather being hard at first, if cowboy boots are too tight, you should find a way to exchange them soon because it will take a long time for them to stretch naturally.
The other good news is that the methods to stretch cowboy boots are highly effective. You can find a boot stretcher, boot stretch spray or use the steaming method to do it.
However, when stretching boots, there are certain risks such as losing their original shape. This can be a hindrance if you want to return your new cowboy boots.
So the advice is that, with boots that are new and too tight, you should exchange them.
The stretch of cowboy boots depends a lot on the material that makes them such as real leather, faux, bonded leather or exotic leather.
I’ll list them right below!
What materials tend to stretch?
Since cowboy boots are not constructed of fabric or woven fabric (which is almost non-stretchy), these boots will stretch to some extent, depending on the material used to make them.
Real leather (usually cowhide, buffalo leather, or sheepskin) is a material with good elasticity, toughness, and durability.
These materials are taken from the top layer that is in contact with the outside of the animal. This thing is like human skin; it has great elasticity. That’s why real leather does stretch pretty well.
For that reason, they are the ideal material for cowboy boots. Real leather right out of the box can be very stiff, causing the wearer to endure some scratching, blisters, or pain around the toes, heels, or calves during the first wear.
However, with time and frequency of use, this material will quickly soften with body heat (or outdoor heat) since high temperatures can enlarge pores on the surface.
This gives it a better natural stretch while making it mold to every corner of your feet (especially toes, heels, and vamps).
The elasticity of real leather is relatively good. You won’t feel any lingering cramps even if you buy a pair of cowboy boots half a size smaller than your actual size.
The boots will stretch to some point that fits your feet all the way and stay the same from then on.
Overall, it may take a few days (at least) to more than a week for real leather cowboy boots to break in and stretch completely.
Faux or bonded leather
This type of leather is also slightly stretchy and resilient. However, these features of faux cannot be compared with real leather materials.
This is because faux or bonded leather is made from a synthetic material, which is usually brittle and stiffer. As a result, their elasticity is significantly reduced.
Faux cowboy boots can feel very soft and fit right out of the box, but they won’t be able to stretch too much to mold your feet better. They often expand just a little bit due to the temperature of their feet or from heat from outside.
Overall, faux may not be the least stretchy of the materials used to produce cowboy boots today, but it almost is.
The good news is that you often don’t need to wait for this material to break in and stretch before you can wear them comfortably.
These are big-budget, luxurious, and unique materials. From my experience in this field, I think they also possess an excellent stretch when it comes to real leather cowboy boots.
However, the elongation, toughness, and durability of each type of exotic leather are strongly different.
For example, crocodile skin has a medium stretch (because of the thickness of the material), while stingray or ostrich leather has a pretty good stretch.
Snakeskins (either snakes, karung, or python) are supple but not too durable due to the rough structure of millions of scales and the thinness (thinnest) of the material.
Thick exotic leather may take up to a week to stretch out, but other thinner ones can be worn right out of the box.
Suede, nubuck, split leather
These are often rated as great options for stretching when it comes to cowboy boots. However, they don’t really stretch as much as we would expect.
This is because suede or nubuck is obtained from the underside of animal hides. That is why the surface of these materials has a napped finish with excellent softness and subtlety. However, this is also the reason why suede does not have high elasticity.
They do not even expand due to heat like sleek leather because they do not contain pores on the surface, while fur is not affected by high temperatures and expands.
From my experience, suede, nubuck, or split leather are the least stretchy materials when it comes to cowboy boots. In turn, they don’t require breaking in the boots, and you can wear them comfortable right out of the box.
Where do cowboy boots stretch?
Stretchy things often stretch when they are compressed or enlarged. Leather cowboy boots work the same way.
Real leather can stretch naturally, but relatively little. The harder it is pinched, the more it expands. Here are some positions on cowboy boots that are most likely to expand during wear.
Toes contain room for toes—where our toes are placed inside and wiggle. Round toes or broad toes (either broad square toes or broad round toes) usually don’t stretch too much because your toes are given plenty of room to breathe.
Therefore, they do not compress the toes, causing the leather to expand.
When you wear narrow-toe cowboy boots like snip toes, pointed toes, or S toes, the ball of your feet and your feet will put a lot of pressure on the sides of the boot’s toes, causing them to stretch to the sides.
If you have chubby feet, big and extra wide, the toes will stretch upwards and sideways in the shape of your toes as they mold to your feet all the way.
Square toes may be the most ideal since they provide just enough space for the toes to wiggle while stretching the boot’s toes a little to mold to your feet well. Everything is just enough for comfort.
That’s probably also why square toes are so popular with Americans today.
If you are a fan of narrow-fitted cowboy boots, you may realize that after a while of wearing them, the vamps extend quite a lot compared to when they were right out of the box. This especially happens to people with chubby and plump feet.
The size of your instep will compress the vamps every time you stand, sit or bend your feet, causing them to stretch upwards.
In addition, if you often stand, carry heavy loads or walk in cowboy boots for more than 10 hours a day, your feet also tend to get swollen all over. This also dilates the vamps of the boots.
If you have picked the right size of cowboy boots for you, I don’t see much expansion around the heels very often. To check if the boots fit you the best, the one-thumb rule is always appropriate.
This means there will be a thumb-thick gap between your heels and the boots.
So, you are very less likely to compress the heels of the boots whenever you step in this case.
However, if you are wearing a smaller size than yours, chances are the heels of the boots will start to deform and get some slight stretch around these areas, but you will notice it very clearly over time.
Cowboy boots often come with a wide boot shaft, which is sometimes quite a bit too wide for slender legs.
However, I believe that the thickness of American calves will increase day by day since we like to stick to the gym a few days a week. Some of my friends work as bodybuilders. They can’t find cowboy boots that fit their calves perfectly.
So, they have to stick with some of the biggest boot opening options (about 17 inches in circumference) they can find, which often fit a little bit snugly.
This constriction will cause the boot shaft to expand due to the pressure from the muscular calves acting on the leather areas around here.
This will somewhat interfere with the comfort, blood circulation, and function of the wearer’s calf when sitting down, stepping upward, or simply walking.
You may need some help stretching cowboy boots around the calves in these cases.
How much can cowboy boots stretch?
This largely depends on the material and how much you squeeze the boots.
Most genuine leather (usually cowhide, buffalo skin, or sheepskin) can stretch from half size to up to one size of its original dimensions, with or without the use of stretchy devices. This does not affect the quality of the boots or the structure of the material.
Faux or bonded leather can only stretch about 1/4 size compared to the original size.
Exotic leather is also capable of expanding by about 1/3-1/2 size compared to the original. You can also use stretch devices to expand the material if you want to, but I’m not sure if this will deform this bank-account-squeeze stuff forever or not.
So check it out before you are about to stretch exotic leather.
Suede, nubuck, and split leather can only stretch about 1/5 of the original size. You may find suede cowboy boots almost fit your feet the same way all the time, no matter how long you have worn them so far.
So you must be very cautious about the sizes when it comes to picking up brand-new suede or nubuck cowboy boots.
Before you leave
I guess you already know how much each material that makes cowboy boots is able to expand. Real leather is the easiest material to stretch out. Several methods of stretching cowboy boots can make them stretch up to 1 size.
I hope you find this article somewhat helpful in your case.
Howdy y’all, and welcome to From The Guest Room, your ultimate guide to all things Western! I’m Jay Gatz, a lifelong cowboy boot enthusiast with over 5 years of experience in the Western style world. I’m excited to share my knowledge with you and help you discover the perfect cowboy boots and western gear to elevate your style. Let’s explore the rich history and timeless appeal of Western fashion together!